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A bust of Keith W. Laughlin sculpted by Adams resident Ruth Ellen King.

Woman Seeks to Reunite Artwork with Subject's Family

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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The memorial for Laughlin that was found with the bust.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Gail King needs your help.
 
When the North Carolina resident and New England expatriate returned to the area this summer to help clean out the home of the recently deceased Jean Ann King, Gail found among her things a bust sculpted by Jean's daughter, Ruth Ellen King, who died in 2013.
 
With it was a newspaper clipping with a memorial for the sculpture's apparent subject, Keith W. Laughlin. 
 
And that is where the trail goes cold.
 
The clipping is not an obituary, which would list survivors, but a poem that only references Laughlin's "Mom, Step Dad, Brother, Sisters, Nieces, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Friends." Laughlin's date of death is given as 2002; he was only 32 when he died.
 
It does not identify any of Laughlin's family members by name or even give a clue about his town of residence, or when the memorial was published. King is not sure whether the laminated news clipping is from The Berkshire Eagle or the now defunct North Adams Transcript.
 
She does know the bust meant something to her niece, Ruth Ellen, and she would like to see it end up in a good home, namely that of Laughlin's family.
 
"She did this [sculpture] when she was quite young," Gail King said. "She wasn't an artist, but I think she did it in school as a project. Ruth graduated from Hoosac Valley [High School in Cheshire]."
 
According to her February 2013 obituary on tributes.com, Ruth Ellen King, who died at age 35, was a member of Hoosac Valley's class of 1995 and worked at Big Y Supermarkets for 15 years.
 
"I went to Adams Town Hall and asked if there was a death certificate [for Laughlin]," Gail King said. "There wasn't. But he could have been from Cheshire or Adams or Pittsfield. … Then I stopped at a couple of places in Adams and asked if anyone knew the name.
 
"I went to the Adams Public Library and looked at the Hoosac Valley yearbooks for a stretch of five years around when he would have graduated, but he wasn't in there."
 
Gail King is hoping that by getting the word out about the bust, she will be able to connect with Laughlin's family members and give them something else to remember him by.
 
"I really don't want to throw it away," she said. "I figure someone must know this kid. If Ruth knew him, maybe one of her friends knew who he was."
 
Anyone with information about Keith W. Laughlin can send it to info@iBerkshires.com.

Tags: community news,   memorial,   sculpture,   

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Williams Geosciences Professor Awarded NSF Grant to Study Boulder Beach Response to Storms

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Rónadh Cox, the Edward Brust professor of geology and mineralogy at Williams College, has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The three-year, $340,000 grant will support her research on how boulder beaches respond to storms and how they change over time.

Boulder beaches record wave action on stormy coastlines, but surprisingly little is known about them. Cox's NSF-funded project, titled "Boulder Beaches: The Understudied Archive on High-Energy Coasts," aims to increase understanding of their dynamic evolution. The study focuses on 22 sites in Ireland, which has a wide range of boulder-beach settings, so that the results will be applicable to other locations world-wide. 

Using a combination of state-of-the-art aerial photogrammetry and hands-on field measurements, she will determine how factors such as wave energy, coastal geometry, topography, geology and boulder sizes control beach morphologies. As the first multi-parametric study of boulder beaches and how it responds to storms, Cox's project, which will engage students in every phase of the work, will be the most comprehensive examination yet undertaken of this dynamic and long-ignored environment.

"The moment is ripe, because as sea level rises and high-energy wave attack on coastal infrastructure becomes more frequent, there is a growing need for studies of high-energy coasts, both to understand coastal response to storms and coastal hazards, and also as a resource for engineers as they work to improve coastal protection approaches," Cox said. "As the main depositional record of wave action on rocky coasts, boulder beaches should be playing a central part in this conversation, but the lack of data and understanding have prevented their integration into coastal geomorphologic thinking. I’m particularly excited to involve Williams students in this work, and I have an excellent rising senior, Aria Mason, who has already begun research on the project."

Cox's research interests include sedimentology, sedimentary petrology, geochronology and planetary geomorphology. At Williams since 1996, she has taught courses on oceanography, geochemistry, planetary geology, and earth resources, among other subjects. Her work has been widely published and cited. She received her B.Sc. from University College Dublin, Ireland, and her Ph.D. from Stanford University.

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